DETROIT – A Muslim woman in hijab is now a full time Deputy Police Officer at the Wayne County Jail Systems, a first for the Sheriff’s office.

Warren resident Marzana Ali, 27, was among 12 officers who graduated last week from the Wayne County Sheriff’s jail academy.

On Monday, June 6, she began her first day as a deputy officer at the jail. It was also the first day of Ramadan.

“I am fasting on the job,” Ali said. “And I was welcomed with open arms. Everybody there was very friendly to me and I felt very safe. My first day was incredible. I was able to learn a lot.”

Learning should come easy for Ali by now. She’s already obtained two associates degrees from Oakland Community College and a Bachelors Degree in Pharmacy management from Oakland University.
She worked as a pharmacy technician at the Wayne County Jail for a period of time before another career field had caught her eye.

“I wanted to try something different and new,” Ali said. “I wanted a challenge. So I took the exam for the correctional officers and I did very well on it.”

Ali, who is married and has and a 2-year-old daughter, turned to her family for support. She added that her father and husband were very supportive in her decision to become a deputy officer.

Still, she had some restraints. She knew she was entering a male dominated work force, but she didn’t know where she would fit in as a Muslim woman–especially one who wears her religion so boldly.

“Before I began, I did feel kind of intimated,” Ali said. “I didn’t know what to expect. But as I started the jailers academy, all those fears went away. It just took a little bit of strength to overcome everything else.”
Ali hopes to further her education by either obtaining a Masters Degree or going to pharmacy school while working at the Wayne County Jail.

Ali’s duties at the jail would require her to interact with inmates, transform them and restrain them if required. She also has to practice protocol for the safety of herself and other officers.

Ali added that her hijab is not going to restrain her from performing her full job obligations.

“It’s very hands on and I think a lot of the women get scared of that,” Ali said. “But It’s a job. A doctor has to lay his hands on you when required. If I have to have physical contact with an an inmate it, I will do it.”
While the Sheriff’s Department had employed Muslim women as deputy officers prior, Ali is the first one to wear a head covering.

But among her colleagues at work, she feels right at home.

“Everybody is really friendly,” Ali said. “Everyone is motivated and wants to see people succeed. It’s a very welcoming environment. I know I can turn to anybody and they will help me with open arms. You need that support system to move forward and progress in the work place.”

In an era where local police departments face scrutiny for lacking diversity on its police force, the Wayne County Sheriff’s office continues its concentrated efforts in reflecting the area’s multi-cultural communities.
Wayne County Deputy Chief Mike Jaafar told The AANews that the office continues to seek qualified individuals of diverse backgrounds.

“It’s important to reflect and represent the community you work in,” said Jaafar. “It’s a testament to Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon’s leadership in encouraging diversity.”

Jaafar added that he hopes Ali’s inclusion opens a door for other Muslim women to pursue similar career opportunities.

“I think this young lady should commend herself for being so brave and paving the way for other individuals who have doubts or have fears about doing it,” Jaafar said. “She’s breaking barriers and paving the way for other females who are covered.”

Ali too hopes Muslim women are brave enough to withstand the current political atmosphere and chase after their aspirations.

“There is nothing wrong with wearing a hijab and working in the jail,” Ali said. “The advice I would give to Muslim women is to follow your dreams. Move forward and challenge yourself. You won’t know until you try it. You should never let your nationality or religion come in the way of a career you could do well in.”

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